Dostalova, Leopolda (1879–1972)

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Dostalova, Leopolda (1879–1972)

Czech actress, one of the stars of the Prague stage for more than a half-century, whose portrayals showed great emotional range and an affinity for strong, passionate women. Born in Veleslavin, near Prague, Czechoslovakia (modern-day Czech Republic), on January 23, 1879; died on June 17, 1972; daughter of an actor.

Born in 1879 in Veleslavin, a town near Prague, Leopolda Dostalova grew up in a theatrical environment, her father being an actor. She studied acting in the 1890s in Prague, and among her teachers were the leading actors and actresses of the day. The most important influence on Dostalova's evolving acting style was Hana Kvapilova (1860–1907), the female star of the Prague theater at the turn of the century. Hailed at her 1901 debut at Prague's National Theater as the most outstanding representative of the modern tragic style of acting, Dostalova remained a star for the rest of her extraordinarily long career.

After performing for a brief period, from 1920 through 1924, at the branch of the Prague National Theater in Vinohrady, she returned to Prague in 1924 to universal acclaim. A powerful dramatic actress, Dostalova was able to turn in a superb performance in a classic role of Sophocles one night, switching the next evening to depict a contemporary personality in a play by Karel Capek. Among her best roles were Sophocles' Antigone and Electra, Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth, Euripides' Medea, Ibsen's Hedda Gabler, and Ferdinand Bruckner's Elizabeth I . She was a sovereign master of roles by Slavic playwrights, including Slowacki's Balladyna, Ostrovskii's Murzavetskaia (Wolves and Sheep), and Tyl's Liudmila (Dragomiry). Exhibiting remarkable physical stamina and intellectual power, Dostalova remained a major figure of the Prague stage well into the 1950s. She was awarded the State Prize of the Czechoslovak Republic in 1946, published her memoirs in the 1960s, and died, beloved by several generations of Prague theatergoers, on June 17, 1972. A week before her death, the innovative Za Branou (Behind the Gate) theater company, of which she was doyenne, was shut down by the repressive regime installed by the Soviet Union after 1968.


Dostalova, Leopolda. Herecka vzpomina. 2nd ed. Prague: Orbis, 1964.

Jansky, Emanuel. Narodni umelkyne Leopolda Dostalova. Prague: Vydavatelstvi ministerstva informaci, 1948.

Kindermann, Heinz. Theatergeschichte Europas, X. Band: Naturalismus und Impressionismus, III. Teil. Salzburg: Otto Müller Verlag, 1974.

"Leopolda Dostalova," The Times [London], June 19, 1972, p. 14.

John Haag , Athens, Georgia

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